The United States is often considered to be a melting pot of languages. While that is true, there are a few that rise to the top of the list. There are, however, about three hundred and forty-five other languages spoken in the United States that are not noted below. The below languages, including English, are the most popularly spoken according to the American Community Survey. Each has its own reasons for being prominent.
English is estimated to be spoken in over 236 million households in the United States. There are a number of reasons for this, though the primary reason is the fact that the United States was originally colonized by England. The United States did not (and does not) have an official language, but as the settlers spread across the country, they brought the language with them. English is frequently used by those outside of the United States as well, which further encourages state-side speaking of the language. In addition, English is often used globally in certain professions, such as airline pilots, doctors, technology developers, and more.
An estimated 40 million households in the United States speak the Spanish language. This makes it the second most commonly spoken language in the country. Because of this, Spanish is also the most commonly studied foreign language in the United States. The United States is additionally second only to Mexico when it comes to a Spanish-speaking population. One of the reasons for the commonality of Spanish in the United States is because of the colonization by the Spanish. Certain southern states of the country, such as Louisiana, Texas, California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Florida were heavily influenced by Spanish colonists.
Chinese, including Mandarin and Cantonese, is the third most popular language spoken in the United States. California and New York are two of the states where the language is most commonly used. At about 3 million households, this language is mostly spoken in the households of Chinese-American immigrants. While many of these immigrants also speak English, they continue to retain the Chinese language to preserve their culture. Similarly, because China’s economy is growing, Chinese is increasing in its level of popularity on a global scale.
The fourth most popularly spoken language in the United States is Tagalog, including Filipino. About 1.7 million households speak this language. It is spoken heavily in Washington, Hawaii, Nevada, New York, and California. One of the possible reasons that the language is spoken in the United States is because the Philippines was passed over from Spain to the United States during the Treaty of Paris. As a result of this, the United States is the largest foreign investor in the Philippines. This continues to influence the travel of a number of Filipino Americans back and forth from one to the other.
At about 1.5 million households, Vietnamese is the fifth most popular language spoken in the United States. This popularity likely stems from a mass immigration at the end of the Vietnam War. Many Vietnamese speakers landed in California, Washington, New York, Louisiana, Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Florida. A second immigration to the United States occurred in the late 1970’s to mid-1980’s, when a communist government came into power. Since then, additional steady migration has increased the number of households that speak Vietnamese in the United States.
While there is a wide array of popular languages spoken in the United States, it appears that the main reason for this is the result of immigration. Whether spurred from colonization or war or political unrest, the languages spoken are each unique, seeped in culture, and continuing to grow. It is also notable that because English is the most popular language spoken in the United States, each of the other languages listed above tend to be spoken in concert with English as a second language. As time continues on, the popularity of languages spoken in the US may continue to evolve.